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SAS partners reap the rewards of intensive consultant training courses

SAS developed a boot camp style training course as a way of quickly 'skilling up' SAS partners' employees in terms of their technical awareness and understanding, as well as teamwork, communication, problem solving and presentation skills.

Scoping the Challenge
In today's competitive business environment, more and more service-focused organisations see the value of investing in structured training programmes to enable their consultants to come 'up to speed' on their solutions and be productive in a shorter period of time. SAS partners typically require a means of addressing any SAS skills shortfall in their graduate trainees by providing high levels of technical instruction. They are typically looking for an approach that places the skills acquired into a real-life business context, and that develops essential competencies around team working ultimately to help generate a pipeline of talented consultants.

To meet this need, SAS works with partner organisations to develop fourweek intensive 'boot camp style' training programmes that can be adapted to the specific needs of each partner. The original model for this new type of training programme was developed by SAS in conjunction with one of its leading partners, Sopra Group, a European consulting, systems integration, application development and outsourcing company. Sopra Group, then Business & Decision, had recognised a SAS skills shortfall emerging and decided to collaborate with SAS to develop the new programme.

Delivering the Solution
Typically, the boot camp programme will include a brief introduction to SAS, including a practical hands-on interactive demonstration of SAS® Enterprise Guide®, a powerful tool that empowers users to analyse data and publish results. The major benefit of the tool in this context is that it is intuitive and easy to use and therefore helps get trainee consultants 'up and running' quickly. The course generally also includes an introduction to more complex programming skills, a step change that is easier to achieve with the benefit of the initial SAS Enterprise Guide training

After five days, the programme usually starts to incorporate additional skillsbased activities. Typically, these include time management training – identifying how consultants can best prioritise their work. There are also discussions around team theory and practical tests to build communications skills.

Each course attendee is then given a mock case study to work on - typically this will be in the second week - which involves acting out the role of a member of a fictional MIS team and having to present relevant information back to executives.

Working alongside the partner organisation, SAS films the presentations and gives course attendees a DVD to help with future development. The students then carry out a practice exam to identify areas to focus on in the lead up to the Base SAS certification exam. They are allowed some time for self-study and, in some cases, do some relevant consolidation exercises typically both at the main SAS site and also at the partner's offices before taking the exam itself. After this, SAS and the partner jointly host one-to-one feedback sessions to identify what has gone well, areas to work on and future plans.

Throughout the programme, there is a focus on appropriate business behaviour. Trainee consultants, often working in their first job, are required to work to tight deadlines, often through lunchbreaks or late into the evening to get the job done, to dress smartly for business meetings and be punctual at all times.

Reaping the Rewards
Through the boot camp training programme, SAS and its partners working together are able to give trainees real-world experience in a relatively short time in a controlled environment. Would-be consultants also have the opportunity to leave the programme with a globally recognised certification from SAS, giving them confidence to add value to their chosen organisation early in their career.

"Ultimately what differentiates the SAS boot camp from most training programmes for budding consultants is that our approach applies a unique training methodology where we offer a combined focus on knowledge, skills and behaviours to gain fast and effective results," says Myles Hannon, Head of Education, SAS UK.

Also by attending the SAS boot camp, delegates qualify for other benefits. By doing so, they qualify to attend three other courses at any time they want to throughout the next nine-month period in order to develop the skills to sit an advanced certification exam. So within the basic price, they have access to all the courses and material they need to achieve both SAS certification levels.

From the perspective of the SAS partner organisations, there are also clear benefits. Sopra Group has bespoke content for its employees, which benefits them by providing them with a broad range of SAS skills. According to Shelley Allen, Graduate Programme Manager at Sopra Group, "We've been able to attract high-quality graduates simply by having that SAS programme in place. The programme is highly respected by the senior management team within Sopra Group."

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SAS Consultant Training

Business Issue:

SAS partners typically require an approach that addresses any SAS skills gaps that exist amongst their graduate trainees by providing high levels of technical instruction, and by developing additional skills around team working to build a strong pipeline of talented consultants.

Solution:

The programme focuses on quickly 'skilling up' a large number of employees, not only in terms of their technical awareness and understanding, but also in general business areas like teamwork, communication, problem solving and presentation skills.

Benefits:

SAS is able to give trainees realworld experience in a relatively short time in a controlled environment. Would-be consultants also have the opportunity to leave the programme with a globally recognised SAS certification , giving them the confidence to add value to their chosen organisation early in their career.

From the graduates' point of view, the programme provides a great foundation course for their future careers. Also, it gives us the confidence to get them 'up and running' and working at client sites almost immediately.

Shelley Allen

Graduate Programme Manager, Sopra Group

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